Art And Evangelism

We writers don’t have to incorporate all Truth into our stories because, above all else, we can’t. Instead, we can give our own feeble glimpse of God’s work or nature in order to contribute some small addition to the reader’s knowledge of our great God.

Self-portrait_as_an_artist,_1888From time to time different writers here at Spec Faith have skirted around the topic of evangelism in our stories. We discussed such ideas as theology in fiction and preachiness, but a recent article in the Christian Research Journal honed this “purpose of art for the Christian” overarching theme into one succinct topic—can, should, does an artist evangelize in his art?

At the heart of this article, “What Has Art to Do with Evangelism?” by Sharon Fish Mooney, is a discussion of the works of Vincent van Gogh. Up to this point, all I knew about Van Gogh was that he was . . . what’s the politically correct term . . . unbalanced? mentally unstable? emotionally challenged? I’m not sure. But I was aware he had “an artist’s temperament,” that he’d cut off an ear, and that he painted some unusual self-portraits.

I don’t know that I’d ever heard he’d one day wanted to be an evangelist and pastor:

Oh, that I may be shown the way to devote my life more fully to the service of God and the Gospel.” (Van Gogh in a letter to his brother Theo, as quoted in “What Has Art to Do with Evangelism?”)

According to Mooney,

To Vincent, art could not only be beautiful but also persuade and speak to the deepest needs of the soul and spirit, his own needs, and the needs of others.

In other words, Van Gogh would be in the camp of evangelization through art. Again Mooney quoted from one of Van Gogh’s letters to his brother:

God is just, so He will use persuasion to bring those who stray back to the straight path. . . . I have my bonds of various kinds, humiliating bonds some of them, and this will only get worse with time; but the words inscribed above Christus Consolator, ‘He is come to preach deliverance to the captives‘ are still true today.

The painting to which he refers depicts Christ surrounded by people such as a woman crying over her child, a slave in chains, and a sixteenth century poet who’d suffered from mental illness.

From Van Gogh, Mooney switches gears and addresses the how: How can art evangelize? She postulates that rather than putting the gospel in front of people the way preaching does—because “by nature, it is allusive and indirect”—art, instead, should “bear witness to truth.” (“Mission, Evangelism, Contextualization, and the Arts,” as quoted by Mooney, emphasis mine).

This “bearing witness” purpose of art seems to mirror God’s self-revelation in nature which John Stott pointed to in his exposition of Romans.

Stott identified four main characteristics of God’s general self-revelation, It is general in the sense it is given to all people rather than to “particular people in particular places, through Christ and the biblical authors”; it is natural, “made through the natural order” rather than the supernatural involving the “incarnation of the Son and the inspiration of the Scriptures”; it is continuous, going on day after day and night after night rather than final and “finished in Christ and in Scripture”; and creational, “revealing God’s glory through creation,” rather than specific, “revealing God’s grace in Christ.” (ibid.)

Mooney applied these four aspects of God’s “bearing witness” of Himself to art and the ability of artists—beings made in God’s image and therefore with the capacity to create—to bear witness, though imperfectly, in the same general way.

Light shining out from the darkness

Light shining out from the darkness

This idea of art bearing witness resonates with me. Perhaps not every Christian writer will find this idea as striking as I do, but for me, this concept expresses what I’ve believed about story but have struggled to articulate. The goal of evangelizing through story falls between the overt and the silent—the idea that the gospel message should be incorporated into the story, versus the belief that God is glorified as long as the story is well-told, regardless of author intent.

Bearing witness returns the responsibility to the writer to throw light on God and His work in the world, but it releases him from the responsibility of a “proper” reader response. All the writer must do is accurately reflect the face of God. 😉

Since our expression is imperfect even at our best, and given that God is infinite and invisible and wrapped in unapproachable light, our “accurate” reflection of Him will be imperfect and incomplete. But that’s rather freeing. We writers don’t have to incorporate all Truth into our stories because, above all else, we can’t.

Instead, we can give our own feeble glimpse of God’s work or nature in order to contribute some small addition to the reader’s knowledge of our great God.

Thinking back to the four characteristics of God’s self-revelation which Stott identified, I find help in sorting out the difference between witness bearing and preaching. The first characteristic, natural, seems most helpful.

“Art that reflects a biblical worldview does not necessarily have to focus explicitly on the person and life of Christ or specific Scripture passages. Everyday occurrences of life and work . . . may also be . . . a natural metaphor for spiritual truth” (ibid).

Metaphors, of course, don’t just happen, meaning that, should an author wish to bear witness through her story using this avenue, it will require work and planning and intention.

But in the end, readers who pay attention should have the opportunity of glimpsing God or at least some aspect of His nature. That, I believe, is the intersection of art and evangelism.

Best known for her aspirations as an epic fantasy author, Becky is the sole remaining founding member of Speculative Faith. Besides contributing weekly articles here, she blogs Monday through Friday at A Christian Worldview of Fiction. She works as a freelance writer and editor and posts writing tips as well as information about her editing services at Rewrite, Reword, Rework.
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  1. Kessie says:

    Yeah, among my reader friends, we call this “stealth Christian”. A Christian will sniff out the worldview and catch on, but a non-believer won’t. It has nothing to do with the amount of swearing or bedscenes or anything–it has everything to do with the story’s theme and the trials the characters go through.

    Does that do anything for nonbelievers? I don’t know. But it sure makes it easier as a storyteller.

    • Kessie, I think nonbelievers can see the difference between forgiveness and retribution, for example, and it does make a difference in that it shows them a better way, shows them the longings of their own hearts, and perhaps prepares them, as stories did for C. S. Lewis, so that when they hear the Truth, they’ll recognize it.


  2. You may or may not be surprised to learn Rebecca that I see no intersection between art and evangelism at all if the scriptures are our standard. (Where do we find artistic evangelism anywhere in the scriptures?) There IS art in the bible. It is good and holy and God honoring. Yes, the image of God as creator is reflected through us in our varying God given gifts of creativity.  How it is used in His word is how we should we use it. OR we are presuming upon God’s mind revealed therein. I really and honestly don’t wish to seem a constant naysayer, but God’s biblical example of the production and use of art is almost universally ignored in today’s church.

    • God’s biblical example of the production and use of art is almost universally ignored in today’s church.

      I don’t agree, Greg. In nearly every article I read about art and the church, there is use of Scripture. The article I wrote about yesterday is no exception.

      One example Ms Mooney used was that of Nehushtan, the bronze serpent lifted up in the wilderness as a means to save whoever of the people of Israel would look at it. This was not a stick or a rock or even a hunk of bronze. It was an image, a statue, and it was the means God chose to use to save His people. It was also the type of Christ which Jesus Himself declared.

      The artists named in the Old Testament may not have created the ark and the angels, the decorative curtains, the priestly garments, the utensils of the tabernacle and later of the temple for the purpose of evangelism in the sense we typically think, but there’s no doubt they fit the concept of “bearing witness.”

      The fantasy stories recorded in the Old Testament actually did have salvific purpose, though temporal, not eternal. They were designed to change the mind, and therefore the actions, of others.

      Jesus’s stories also had the purpose of conveying some aspect of truth, often times related to salvation. The Prodigal Son comes to mind as one of the more artful stories He told, but even the more simple ones—sheep knowing His voice, the shepherd entering the fold through the door, the man selling all in order to buy the field where he’d hidden the pearl—relate something through metaphor about God and His relationship with us.

      God certainly did use art to “evangelize” in Scripture, but even if He didn’t do so specifically, Greg, I don’t see that would negate the goal of someone who believes God is to be integrated into all we do, the goal to share Christ and what we understand about God through the paintings we create or the stories we write.


      • A great answer Rebecca, but I cannot concur.
        I didn’t mean people ignore art. It’s just the opposite. Today it is exalted to levels of artificial importance unheard of really before Rookmaaker and Schaeffer. (Lewis too actually) Disasters for the church. I meant that they do it their own way and ignore God’s examples.

        …someone who believes God is to be integrated into all we do

        Oh NO Maam. God is NOT to be integrated into all WE do. We are to do EVERYTHING we do (and think and say) the way HE  says. Either by precept or example. We are not at liberty to devise our own ways to help God out. 1st Corinthians 1 makes this abundantly clear.

        Where do we find “art” in the bible being made by God’s people for unbelievers? Ever? Or for it’s own sake because it’s “good art”??

        Where do we find the Hebrew artisans making objects to attract the nations? Why doesn’t Paul tell Timothy to join the drama team at the Temple of Diana so as to  influence the pagans for Jesus? Where do we find so much as a single scriptural syllable prescribing or even DEscribing God’s desire for His people to make art for the world?

        There are 2 and only 2 uses for art among God’s covenant people in the bible.  THIS right here is where the church steered herself headlong into a 20th century humanistic Arminian ditch. I hold the old reformed hermeneutic. As did Spurgeon and the whole of reformed/baptist orthodoxy before him. .I trust God’s word and the Holy Spirit to do what He promised. He doesn’t need or tolerate my arrogant over-creativity. My responsibility is faithfulness. NOT results.

      • …someone who believes God is to be integrated into all we do

        Oh NO Maam. God is NOT to be integrated into all WE do. We are to do EVERYTHING we do (and think and say) the way HE  says.

        The fact that you felt Becky’s comment here was somehow disagreeable, or not stated precisely enough — but no, you overtly said “no” — seems to show that you come primed for disagreement. There is also no cause whatsoever to assume that Becky meant anything like “We are not at liberty to devise our own ways to help God out.”

        You personally may have scars from battles with megachurchianity. But no one here has yet defended this kind of pragmatism.

        • You are simply mistaken Stephen. I am never looking for a fight.

          There is no such thing as God blessed artistic evangelism. There is no such thing as God blessed art made by Christians for non Christians at all. To assert that there is,  is to “devise our own ways to help God out”. Because we are then practicing a thing with no biblical precedent, either by command or example.

          Why do I do what I do Stephen? Why am I here?

          Because I KNOW the worldview I espouse is the worldview of The reformation.  Of also William Bradford and the Plymouth colony. Of all the old Presbyterians, Baptists and Congregationalists whose morality was the basis of the limited government that made this once great nation possible.  (here comes slavery 😉 )The one openly owned by 44 of the 55 delegates to the first U.S. constitutional convention, though many of them weren’t probably true converts.

          I am witnessing the grotesque paralyzing pollution of this society as she strangles herself in unbridled debauchery, violence and  wickedness. Because the CHURCH has lost her light and saltiness. As Spurgeon quite rightly observed, and decades before the west threw off all bounds of anything even vaguely resembling those reformation roots. The church has been neutered and neutralized by a love and hunger for that which her puritan forefathers would rather indeed have died at the stake than tolerated.

          On this site there are people I think might actually be brought to care about that. Rebecca is one. You are another. (maybe others). Most of the especially younger (RELEVANT. GOD HELP US!!) church has no idea and couldn’t care less. They have the biblical and historical knowledge and discernment of a turnip and are happy to have it so.

          We are headed into persecution and hardship for true believers on this continent that we think can ONLY happen somewhere else. Mark my words. Write it down. What if you really believed that? I do.

          NObody is going to care about art and entertainment or movies or tv shows or whose new album is out or sporting events then.  You’re 20 years younger than me. You may live to see it. Your kids certainly will.

          I may handle things wrong sometimes, but my goal and my PASSION is to be an instrument of righteousness in his hands. To stand firmly on the shoulders of those who went before me and proclaim the thrice holy God of blinding holiness and power that they proclaimed. Only that God and that gospel will survive whats’ coming.

          Am I talking about the great tribulation? I don’t know. I’m not an eschatology guy. All I know is that we ARE waltzing straight into the jaws of that roaring lion who doesn’t even have to seek anybody to devour anymore. He just lays there with his mouth open and we walk in. In the name of a severely fractured notion of “liberty”.

          I will say though that a gift for writing (that’s’ how God delivered His special revelation, on purpose) will be valuable while this age endures. Including and maybe especially during a time of bitter persecution. All of you folks have an excellent command of the language and the bility to convey it in written words. That’s a good thing.

          BTW, I’m not against fiction as such.  The topic of this article is “Art and Evangelism”.  1st Corinthians 1 tells us the EXACT opposite of the prevailing philosophies of evanghelism today. Seriously. Take a look.

          • Greg, Stephen is right to say he and I don’t see eye to eye on every topic, even some he brought up in his comment, but we do both see God at work through Christians who write stories. I don’t know why you think it’s necessary to go to war with the idea that God can speak to lost sinners through the witness a writer might create through his story—or to the saved in need of edification and encouragement.

            You sound as if you believe only certain (non-sinful) professions are acceptable for Christians. Pastoral ministry is OK, but not athletics? Or maybe tent-making is acceptable, but not novelist? I’m sorry, Greg, I don’t see this in Scripture. Rather we are to love God with our heart, soul, mind, and strength. This is not part time. We are, in fact, to integrate God into the warp and woof of our lives—we are to lay hold of Him even as He has laid hold of us. (See Phil. 3:12).

            And we are commissioned. We are to make disciples, and I don’t see God prescribing a single way we are to accomplish this task. He didn’t say, street preachers only, no tent revival meetings. Or house churches only, no mega churches. He didn’t say, nonfiction only, no fiction.

            Greg, I can’t believe you ignore Jesus’s example as an artist/evangelist the way you are. You say there is no example in the Bible of art used to evangelize. Jesus spoke in stories to the lost most days of His ministry. You’re either saying Jesus’s stories aren’t art or you’re saying He wasn’t speaking to bring the lost to Him. Both are incorrect.

            But more so, what about every author of a book of the Bible? The Bible itself is evangelistic. Yes, God breathed, which makes it perfect and complete. But God created us in His image—as communicators and as creative persons. How can you think we are NOT to use those abilities that are from Him for His purposes, even as He did in giving us Scripture?

            And finally, God, in His providence has put us in this time, in this culture with its hedonistic worldview. It’s not an accident, not something He didn’t realize would be true. He called me to be a writer—whether you or Stephen believe this is true or not. He knew I’d be writing to a culture that has made mankind its idol and pleasure its religion.

            Again, I don’t care if you agree or not, stories reach people at the heart level. It’s a wide open field for Christian writers to speak into the culture, bearing witness of who God is and what He’s done. People today will listen to stories and stories may bring them to Christ or to the Bible or to a hunger to know what these characters know.

            Greg, in short, you are limiting God! You are saying in your constant critique of everything I say about art that you know how God can and should work, and it’s not through art. I’m sorry, Greg. You are taking a position God has not given you, and you are speaking as if you alone know what other Christians should do.

            Understand, the days of the Reformation are over. We aren’t going back to the way things were. In most likelihood, false teaching will increase and hearts will grow colder; hedonism will grow more prevalent, not less. The imperative we believers ought to have is not to try to clean up the culture. We ought to be speaking truth to the lost.

            If you can’t get behind that, Greg, then perhaps Spec Faith is not the place you want to hang out.


        • Greg, if you’re right, it is only if we really should base our views on:

          1. Perennial doomsaying about how horrible Today’s Church is;
          2. Potentially nearsighted woe-is-our-nation sociopolitical rhetoric
          3. Just plain ol’ failure to recognize that not everyone shares your apparent “love language” or fiercely worded debate ( 😉 )

          If all these were our chief end, then I would certainly agree with you.

          But I don’t believe these things are the be-all, end-all of Christianity.

          Neither do I believe that even when these things concern us — and they should, as we participate in our cultures and see where they are going — that we simply ignore or shut down discussion about why God lets us create stories and songs for the flourishing of humanity.

          This is where we do need eschatology. Becky and I have disagreed on how/whether anticipation of New Heavens and New Earth should inform our views of stories and songs. But I’m sure we would agree that, although we must see warning signs in culture, discern and so on, it would be harmful and even sinful to base all of our discussion about this on alarmism. All Christians and all eschatologies agree that at the end of the Greatest Story, the Savior wins. It is thus not naivete or “compromise,” but plain faith, that informs a victorious outlook now.

          The chief end of man is not to fix the Church, or warn of compromise, or repeat the wisdom of Puritans, or proceed as if any Christian’s call to see culture better is only associated with cheap Relevance™ ploys.

          All of these of course have some value (except the last, which is silly).

          However, the chief end of man is … well, this you know.

          So here it comes again: I believe popular stories and songs are one way humans glorify God. Intentionally or otherwise. Intentionally is better — God gets more glory when we knowingly give it to Him. But the oft-neglected doctrine of common grace reminds us that He is also glorified through some things that nonbelievers do. Which is why a Christian would be an utter fool to neglect or reject as unnecessary the power of creativity (in stories and songs) to help influence rebels against Him. By imaging Him in our creativity, we can add more of His beauty and truth reflections in the world. Sometimes we can even help non-Christians to recognize how and where and why they have their creative gifts, or why they enjoy the good parts of stories. In this, we do not save them. But we do nudge them closer to the Savior.

          No, I don’t believe this means we must stamp “John 3:16” on creative works (including lousy or untruthful creative works) to make them “evangelistic.” But it does mean that Christians’ stories or songs — for each other, and for others “outside” — are different from the secular one. Unlike the pagans, we can know that what we make is done for the Lord first, and not for man. Either way, this is hugely evangelistic. No, I say such art is not separate from the Great Commission, even when it points toward the Greater Commission (the goal that the Great Commission fixes): to worship our Creator forever.

          I’m Reformed and “monergist.” I know God regenerates sinners. He also works through human means (as you yourself attest through your many free choices to attempt truth-promotion on websites).

          Why put the means of human creativity outside His sovereignty? It is senseless to insist that the very topic somehow lowers the discussion or only leads to compromise and worldliness — and more (undefined) end-times doom. 😛 Surely you do not think that all those corrupted ignorant Church-crippling Christians out there are so dangerous to us, that the sovereign God is simply unable to fix this on His own, or that we cannot even trust in His redemption of our souls and preservation from these doctrinal errors as we move on to explore other topics?

  3. Oh goodness me 🙁

    How do I even start? I must say there are some areas where we agree here guys. It can be very difficult to have these kinds of discussions online. I do very much appreciate your responses. I mean that. I’m gonna have to sort through this.

  4. dmdutcher says:

    This is a really well written post. I’m not sure I agree with it, but it’s one of Rebecca’s best.

    • Tiribulus says:

      “DM says: Guess what doesn’t appear in the Bible.
      The modern novel can be dated to roughly the tenth century AD. Therefore, since novels do not appear in the Bible, the Christian writer cannot use them.”
      Ya know that’s a great point and one of I’ve struggled with and still do. I have conflict over this and reserve the right to possibly revise my present view at a later date.

      DM says: “There aren’t even principles for artists specifically.”
      There ARE crystal clear principles for it’s audience and use. Words, written or spoken, are in a class by themselves. The doctrine of the logos of God is primary and rich. WORDS, and the ability to speak and use them, are precious in the bible. Jesus is THE WORD of God made flesh. Our ability of verbal and written communication is a large part of the image of God in us. (our creativity is part of that image too.) The written and spoken WORD has it’s own thorough treatment in the bible. This is why Jesus says the following in Matthew 7:

      “33-“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. 34-You brood of vipers! How can you SPEAK good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth SPEAKS. 35-The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. 36-I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless WORD they speak, 37-for by your WORDS you will be justified, and by your WORDS you will be condemned.”

      WORDS are their own category.

      DM says: “One of the things you notice when reading through the New Testament is that there isn’t a single artist in it. If you look through the whole Bible, the only time any form of art is touched on is in the Psalms, and the instructions of how to build the temple.”
      That is EXACTLY right sir and a humongous part of my point. Thank you.  “ART” plays relatively little role throughout even the old testament and even less still in the new. Yet in our day we have Francis Schaeffer declaring  in his disastrously unbiblical book “Art and the bible”:

      “The arts, cultural endeavors, enjoyment of the beauty of both God’s creation and of man’s creativity – these creative gifts have in our day been relegated to the bottom drawer of Christian consciousness, despised outright as unspiritual or unchristian. This deficiency has been the cause of many unnecessary guilt feelings and much bitter fruit, taking us out of touch with the world God has made, with the culture in which we live, and making us ineffectual in that culture.” Francis Schaeffer  – “Art and the Bible”

      That is a lie from the pit of hell. NOwhere in scripture is it taught that the church’s witness or effectiveness in a culture is tied in any way whatsoever to “ART” for God’s sake! I defy anyone to show me where. (I can see this comin. Go ahead) That is the devil’s trick to lure the church into self sufficient idolatry and worldliness and boy has it ever been successful.  The truth is just the opposite if the bible is actually the standard. God INTENTIONALLY uses people and things that are UNpopular and despised and of no account whatsoever in the world in order to show the wisdom of the world for the foolishness that it is.

      The cross of Christ and Him crucified is SUPPOSED to be stupid and repulsive to them. To dress Jesus up in cultural packaging that this sick dying society will more readily receive is SOOOOO Arminian. The very notion is an affront to the blood of Christ.

      DM asks: “Who are you to tell what Christian artists can do?”
      I would never EVER presume to tell anybody what to do about anything sir. I’m with Peter in his 1st epistle: “whoever speaks, [do so] as one who speaks oracles of God”. That whole passage in Ch. 4 is quite instructive. Gods’ truth has God’s authority because it’s God’s. That’s the point of 1st Cor. 1.

      I am scorned, chided, laughed at, yelled at, ganged up on and or banned wherever I go most of the time. I expect that. In today’s decomposing, “ART” and entertainment and pagan celebrity worshiping American church I’d be certain I was on the wrong track if I weren’t. When I get a little biblical engagement, like here? It means some folks have a conscience that’s still breathing and hasn’t yet been strangled to death, so I invest a little time.

      As I say. Words are a category unto themselves. “ART” such as craftsmanship in woodworking, sculpting, music and by direct extension, drawing, painting, film and photography are good too. They are gifts of God to be used under the principles and examples spelled out in his Word. From Genesis to Revelation those principles are, the explicit worship of the one true and living God, (by proper name 705 times in the book of Psalms) and the edification of and service to the saints.

      You named some yourself. The temple, tabernacle, Solomon’s houses, the psalms, ALL made by the people of God, for God and each other. Every single time. Then we have Paul in the 5th of Ephesians V.19:

      “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, “

      The apostle simply states what had been the case for 4000 years even in his day. “ART”, in this case music, is assumed to be for each other and the Lord. The American church lost her influence in the culture, not because she’s not artistic enough (Lord help us!), but because she has neutralized the cross of Christ with the wisdom of men. Read 1 Cor. 1 again. Does this mean we don’t want the pagans to see our art? Of course it doesn’t mean that. We hope they do and pray that as many as possible will. We invite them to join us in the proclamation and praise of their God thereby. And yes God might even use it to save some. BUT, we are not allowed to make it FOR them. See, we don’t like this explicitly for Jesus and the saints thing though, because we think it restricts OUR creativity. It’s NOT ours.

      Look around. This very website quite rightly decries the porn in Hollywood (while embracing those who promote it, but that’s another story). THE THE THE justification for, not merely the toleration, no sir,  indeed the CELEBRATION of pornography IN THE CHURCH, is “ART”. Properly contextualized “ART”. THAT is what paved the way. People you folks know personally, who I could name will tell you that it’s ok for Christians to perform sexually, nude in a room full of strangers so it can be put on film before a watching world as long as it’s in the name of “ART”. Would you like a link?

      “ART” is a gaping hole in the spiritual wall around the city of God. We broke it open ourselves from the inside. WHILE making sure the front gate is locked tight over there. The enemy laughs.

      THAT is my problem DM. Not “ART” in itself. But the grotesque exaltation of “ART” to a stature and prominence and abuse in the church that is utterly unheard of in and repugnant to the scriptures. “ART” is the motivation for all this new, also never before heard of butchering of the “liberty” passages in the New Testament so to make room for…. “ART”.

      I expect this kinda thing from liberals/emergents and Catholics. To watch the morality of the old reformation faith, the gospel in other words, polluted like it is among those calling themselves “reformed” is truly heartbreaking. Read questions 91 through the 10 commandments in the Westminster Larger Catechism from 360 years ago. A document of immense historical as well as theological significance. How many among all these avid readers have read it even once, ever? THAT is biblical morality. “Thank God we don’t believe THAT legalistic crap anymore”. That’s what today’s even allegedly reformed church says. Even otherwise conservative Presbyterian denominations who REQUIRE the affirmation of the Westminster Standards for membership!! Do you hear me? “ART” has undone centuries of long settled belief and practice and we are living the consequences.

      The devil, popcorn in one hand and a coke in the other, views this as the grandest of all divine comedies.

  5. Rebecca says: “You sound as if you believe only certain (non-sinful) professions are acceptable for Christians. Pastoral ministry is OK, but not athletics? Or maybe tent-making is acceptable, but not novelist?
    There is nothing sinful in itself in being either a professional athlete or novelist. That is not the point at all

    Every creative expression that occurs in the bible is to be used the way it occurs there. Literature and literary storytelling are to be used how they are used is in the bible . Visual art is to be used how it used in the bible. Music is to be used how it is used in the bible. No these are not all the same and there are principles that apply to each.

    I’m sorry I’m wiped out tonight. I wish I could say more now.  There is tons of misunderstanding here Rebecca.
    Stephen. I honestly feel like if I just danced my fingers on my keyboard, like this

    “dfinjo ighsdlkgn983hp;fkvgnsub”

    …that I would be communicating with you no less effectively than I am now. I’m not blaming you. At least not entirely. I must seek the Lord and counsel about how to more reliably get my mind into yours, because it jist ain’t happnin.
    1st Corinthians 1 teaches explicitly that God uses people and hence the means attached to them who are the least popular and least regarded by the world to do His work. He does not say to find out what people love and use that.  The reason is because He wants the glory and not to share it with our ingenuity.

    I can’t think any more tonight.

    • dmdutcher says:

      This is stupid.

      Guess what doesn’t appear in the Bible.


      The modern novel can be dated to roughly the tenth century AD. Therefore, since novels do not appear in the Bible, the Christian writer cannot use them. He must do poetry, but he can’t rhyme, because Hebrew poetry doesn’t use rhymes. It used parallelism of thought instead. You can’t use any form of meter, because it’s not in the Bible either.

      There aren’t even principles for artists specifically. One of the things you notice when reading through the New Testament is that there isn’t a single artist in it. If you look through the whole Bible, the only time any form of art is touched on is in the Psalms, and the instructions of how to build the temple.

      Look, you’re not an artist, and you don’t even like creative stuff. If you did, you’d be telling us about the works of art that you like and that do embody things that are good. Because trust me, there are Christian works in this library that are 100% inoffensive to any orthodox interpretation of the Bible. You don’t like horror? That’s cool, pick up one of the many Christian fantasy novels which keep violence to a minimum, never even speculate on doctrine, and just tell a wholesome story.

      You never LIKE anything though, you’re just Calvin Spurgeon Calvin. Who are you to tell what Christian artists can do?

      If you are all concerned about worldliness in Christian art, it’s not going to be solved by you saying no and expecting people to become Puritans. You need to find works that you can say yes to and show as examples of good Christian art. Because a lot of Christians have dealt with the Puritan mindset, and to us, it’s like someone berating us because we like food and we can’t live on a diet of bread and water.

      It gets old. Really old.

  6. Tiribulus says:

    Oops wrong spot. Sorry. I don’t like nested comments for this reason 🙂

  7. David, thank you for your kind words about this post. I’d actually have been interested in hearing what parts you disagreed with. Unfortunately Greg has once again dominated the discussion with his screeds against . . . I’m not sure what. Art, it would appear.

    Thanks for the great point you made about novels not existing in the first century, as a counter to the idea that today we can only write or use art in the way it was used in the Bible. Your points about poetry and the visual arts were equally incisive.

    I’d simply add, there is nothing in the Bible that says we must use the arts as they were used in Scripture. This appears to be Greg’s opinion which he wishes the rest of us to abide by.

    David, I will have to disagree with you about art and the New Testament, though. As I’ve pointed out to Greg more than once, Jesus told stories. Are they not art? In fact, did He not use some of those to bear witness to His own plans and purposes, to His Father’s nature, to the consequences of an unforgiving heart, and much more?

    Nevertheless, you’re right that there are no clear instructions in Scripture about how we, created in God’s image as communicators and as creative agents, must make art. Yes, there are a number of Old and New Testament admonitions about our tongue and the words we speak. Still, I see nothing in any of those that says a Christian isn’t to write a story that would bear witness to God and His nature or work in the world.

    We are commissioned to go and make disciples, but God didn’t give us a How To manual apart from obeying His commandments. He didn’t list things we’re forbidden to do as a means to make Him known.

    If Jesus’s example isn’t enough, the fact that the Apostle Paul himself quoted from pagan poets, particularly as part of an evangelistic sermon (See Acts 17:28), but also in his letters (see for example 1 Cor. 15:33), should be an indicator that story and poetry can be used to shed the light of truth to those reading.

    This will be my last comment on this thread. I, like you, am weary of the retreading of this idea that the church is in dire straits because we’ve allowed culture to seep in. Well, until we are taken out of the world, I suspect the Church will be in the culture, tasked with speaking to the culture. I know that the love of the world is anathema to God, but bearing witness to the Truth through stories is hardly love of the world!


    in Acts chapter 17, verse 28. The phrase “in him we live and move and have our being” is found in the poem Cretica, written by Epimenides in the 6th century BC, although in the poem the description is applied to Zeus.

    Paul then builds on this quote, adding “your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring’.” This is a direct quote from the Stoic thinker Aratus [Phainomena 5],

    – See more at:

    in Acts chapter 17, verse 28. The phrase “in him we live and move and have our being” is found in the poem Cretica, written by Epimenides in the 6th century BC, although in the poem the description is applied to Zeus.

    Paul then builds on this quote, adding “your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring’.” This is a direct quote from the Stoic thinker Aratus [Phainomena 5],

    – See more at:


    in Acts chapter 17, verse 28. The phrase “in him we live and move and have our being” is found in the poem Cretica, written by Epimenides in the 6th century BC, although in the poem the description is applied to Zeus.

    Paul then builds on this quote, adding “your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring’.” This is a direct quote from the Stoic thinker Aratus [Phainomena 5],

    – See more at:

    • dmdutcher says:

      Well, I think it’s probably more effective for Christian artists to either make culture for Christians, or just make moral fiction. I think the sort of approach where you can reveal God’s attributes to a secular audience without it becoming call and response evangelism is pretty hard to do for most people. I’m not sure it’s me actually disagreeing with your point, or saying it’s hard though, and this is something I admit as personal opinion.

      The parables as art is a tough thing. I don’t think they are, but I don’t think I could debate the point in a comment box. I agree with the rest of your analysis after, my point is more that any attempt to argue a specific command for artists only can come from the general commands to all believers, or in Greg’s case, a huge argument from silence. Not intending there are no restrictions at all.


  8. Rebecca says: “I’d simply add, there is nothing in the Bible that says we must use the arts as they were used in Scripture. This appears to be Greg’s opinion which he wishes the rest of us to abide by.”
    Like I said.  I’ll stick with the old reformed hermeneutic.  This is not MY opinion. If you ever peek into that larger catechism, you will see that I am in a whole lotta real good company there. The ones who spent 4 years writing it and the millions who have held it since until recently. They did not attempt to stamp God’s approval upon their own ideas.

    I simply must reiterate as well. Words are not art. They are in a biblical category by themselves as I demonstrated above and can demonstrate much further if need be. It is interesting that folks will ascribe ALL this power to the arts and then turn around and say that we are under no obligation to use the arts the way they were used in scripture. That attitude was unknown to old time saints like the Westminster Assembly. They did not dare improvise upon God’s precepts OR examples .

    Also, you keep dwelling on stories Rebecca. I’m not against stories. I’m even planning on writing a futuristic science fiction short. I might EVEN enter it in your contest. I really don’t think you do it on purpose per se, but you really do not pay attention when I speak. I said I like science fiction in the other thread. Yes, Sci/Fi can be done biblically. That’s WORDS though. You have a PAINTING up there. I have been addressing visual and musical “ART” which are not in the same biblical category as WORDS.

    I have addressed this wrong interpretation of acts 17 more times than I can count. Even with Stephen at Duran’s place. I don’t have time now.

  9. Greg, did you even read the post, which happens to open with the line, “From time to time different writers here at Spec Faith have skirted around the topic of evangelism in our stories.” (Emphasis added here).

    Just because you declare words aren’t art, doesn’t make it so. Because you’ve formed your opinion from somewhere else, not the Bible, doesn’t make your ideas about art Biblical.

    Because you dispute Paul’s quotations of pagan writing doesn’t mean they are actually in question. See

    Greg, you seem more concerned about being right than seeing God’s name magnified. This post had ONE point—to suggest a way writers can bear witness to the Truth in their stories. You have made it something ugly, and I am really, really tired of you tainting the things I write. It’s not right! Would you please stop.


  10. There may be such a thing as a conversation that just cannot be had online between certain types of people.  I do NOT mean that YOU people are messed up and just can’t understand me.  I just mean there may be certain mindsets that simply require face time for actual communication on some topics to take place.

    • This seems to me very wise.

      And especially if the debate is not at all about the church compromising with pop culture, but rather about whether words and writing count as “art” — that’s hardly a salvific issue or worth any kind of verbal battle. Thus the next wise step would be to leave this conversation as it is. Let’s instead move on.

      • No, salvation does not depend on this Stephen, but there ARE huge ramifications for how modern life is lived in Christ. The enemy knows he cannot steal God’s elect, but the biblical and historical evidence is that he can and does cripple their ability to bear effective witness. Which is to him the next best thing. He has mastered this “art”. (pun intended) He’ll take one compromised Christian over 25 Richard Dawkins or Bill Nyes any day.

        My point above was that regardless of the reason, useful communication is not taking place here. That means it doesn’t make any difference how substantive the topics, the conversation is rendered impotent if the parties are not hearing each other.

  11. Jannai Pero says:

    wow – I have reading this for a paper I am writing for my Masters. I am a Christian artist and just completed my Master art show at Fresno State University, with the purpose of sharing my faith and my salvation story through sculpture…we handed out 200 gospels of John and Scripture bookmarks at the show and the comments from the show were amazingly positive from both Christians and non-Christians. We pray for California every week and for Hollywood and for the arts to be redeemed and used for God since the gift of creativity is from Him, our Great Creator!! Here’s a 7 minute video of my graduate exhibition –
    Full page article about it in newspaper

What do you think?